Once upon a time, there were two brothers, Jacob and Wilhelm. They collected folktales and fairy tales as one might collect a bushel of berries. Many of us are quite familiar with the European tales from Germany, France, and other countries about girls with long hair, little evil sprites with identity issues, and the rule of “3,” “7,” and “12.” These fairy tales are as ubiquitous as your neighborhood wolf stalking a goody-basket laden girl. And most of us know these tales are darker, more visceral than the Disney-ized versions many of us grew up with: Cinderella’s sisters cut off parts of their feet to try to fool the prince (who is tricked until a talking tree clues him in), and Rapunzel is freely given up by her parents for stealing some lettuce. They never protest, but accept the child they longed for will be handed over for adoption to the witch next door, whose only advantage was having a better vegetable garden.
But, one thing I learned by reading this annotated version was how deeply racist some of these tales are. They were more than cautionary; they were examples of when modeling even the simplest acts (butchering a pig) can be a demonstration for murder.
The stories are timeless in their creepiness, horror, and forbidding. “Grimm” is indeed an apt name. Don’t go out in the woods alone, dear children. The wolf is waiting.
A collection of the Grimm Brothers’ tales:
Grimms Brothers on National Geographic: http://www.nationalgeographic.com/grimm/article.html